Whoa, (said in your best Keanu-Reeves-in-the-Matrix-like voice) Spider-Man hasn’t been present in any of my Avengers titles recently. Sad face. But this Shyamalan-like tale from Bendis was still pretty good without Spidey. We’re talking Sixth Sense Shyamalan.. not The Happening or Lady in the Water Shyamalan. So despite Spidey’s absence in the comics, and thus mine from the site for like a month, I’m coming at you all this week catching us up on the Avengers as the penultimate issue of Avengers vs. X-Men drops this Wednesday. And I guess I’ll also throw in some talk about Miles, but this is the first one out of the gate since it was rearing to go. Like Seabiscuit at the start of a race… wait, what? My references are all over the place tonight, let’s just get to it.
The New Avengers, vol. 2 #28
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato
Color Artist: Rain Beredo
Letters & Production: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Mike Deodato & Rain Beredo
The New Avengers: For the sake of this issue, our New Avengers are Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, and Hawkeye.
Plot: Spider-Woman is one of the many Avengers taken captive by the X-Men since the Phoenix Five rose to power. Phoebe Cuckoo, one of the three Stepford Cuckoo sisters, visits Spider-Woman to bring the Avenger food. Phoebe also reveals that she’s using her telepathic abilities to dampen Spider-Woman’s powers. Spider-Woman asks Phoebe if she dreamed of fighting other heroes as a kid. Phoebe walks away with her head down.
Luke Cage is a less passive prisoner. Warpath is startled when Luke reaches out to grab him when he tries to deliver Luke’s dinner. The plate of food drops to the floor and Warpath leaves Luke to sulk over his spilled meal. Luke softly pleads to no one in particular to tell his daughter that he loves her.
Hawkeye is likewise aggressive with his mutant guard. Hawkeye tricks Magma into looking through an opening in the door. The Avenger slings his tray through the door at Magma and it connects with her throat. Hawkeye then reaches out and grabs Magma, threatening to break her arm if she doesn’t release him. Warpath and Phoebe come to Magma’s aid, but Hawkeye is able to secure one of Magma’s bracelets.
Later, Phoebe brings Spider-Woman water so she can take a bath. The two discuss the differing points of view concerning Scott Summers and his vision for the world. Spider-Woman then begs Phoebe for a pen and paper so she can write her mother one last time. Phoebe gives in and brings Spider-Woman the supplies. Spider-Woman takes advantage of Phoebe’s generosity and knocks her out. Now released and able to use her powers, Spider-Woman takes down Warpath.
Hawkeye has freed himself from his cell as well and meets up with Spider-Woman. The romantic couple shares an intimate moment and a joke before going to rescue Luke Cage. The three convicts make a run for freedom, knocking down any mutant they see on the way out. Once outside, they’re confronted with the Phoenix-powered Colossus and some of the A-list X-Men. Luke Cage charges at the mutants, barreling into Colossus, and buys his teammates time to escape. Unfortunately, Cyclops and Emma, the Phoenix Five power couple, are at the end of the docks.
Hawkeye kicks out at Cyclops, whose deflected optic beams combined with Spider-Woman’s venom blast, knocks out Emma. Luke Cage delivers a knockout punch to Cyclops and the Avengers make it to the boat. As they speed away on the water, the world around them disappears. It’s replaced by the interior of a prison where they’re held in containment cells.
Danger – the robotic-humanoid form of the X-Men’s former training room and the current Prison Warden on Utopia – explains to the Avengers they never left their cells. As punishment for attacking the mutant race, the Avengers are forced to live through Danger’s virtual simulations, their desire to escape supplying the story and fueling their torture. Danger restarts the program and the Avengers cry out as the world fades around them.
Spider-Woman is one of the many Avengers taken captive by the X-Men since the Phoenix Five rose to power. Phoebe Cuckoo, one of the three Stepford Cuckoo sisters, visits Spider-Woman to bring the Avenger food.
Avenging Analysis: It’s a little hard to write the review after knowing the twist at the end of this story because I had a different attitude towards this comic as I was reading it for the first time. I figured there would be an obvious Avengers bias, since it is a New Avengers comic, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled about reading another book which painted Cyclops and his X-Men as the bad guys. I did enjoy the fact that the three Avengers in captivity are all characters who should be used to being behind bars.
Spider-Woman has been one of Bendis’ favorite characters during his run on the Avengers. She’s not part of the New Avengers, but she serves as the main focal point inside the X-Men’s prison. Luke Cage represents the sole New Avenger and he gets a nice heart wrenching moment concerning his daughter. Luke also delivers a humorous line when he asks Warpath about the scores of the Knicks’ basketball games, and is on the receiving end of another funny line concerning Spider-Woman’s surprise that Luke has the ability to grow hair.
In addition to setting up the joke, I thought Luke Cage’s hair-growth was a good way for Deodato to help establish the passage of time in the prison. Apart from the hair, Deodato continues to amaze on this title. He handles the main art duties by himself once again and every page has a different example of his great style. The dynamic motion lines and crosshatching, his creatively balanced panel layouts, his use of just the right amount of shadows, and of course Deodato’s beautiful character work. The scene of Spider-Woman bathing in the jail cell may not have been completely necessary, but Deodato definitely made it worth the full page devoted to it.
Spider-Woman deserves credit for her breakout attempt. She played Phoebe perfectly and then followed it up by taking down Warpath, the only legitimate guard in the prison. Deodato’s artwork was a great accompaniment to that scene as well. I enjoy scenes which show the path of action a character takes to get to their end location.
Spider-Woman’s moment is tarnished when Bendis uses this as another opportunity to reference her romantic involvement with Hawkeye. This lovers’ interaction was probably the only reason Hawkeye and Spider-Woman are in this New Avengers’ book to begin with. The reference to Spider-Woman’s killer rack and the “thing” on Hawkeye’s butt were the only downside that brought me out of this Avengers’ Great Escape-like story.
It’s at this point though, that things begin to seem unusual. Why were these three mutant guards chosen to interact with the Avengers? With the exception of Warpath, they don’t seem to be the most capable guards. Magma and Phoebe look to be a bit gullible and their naiveté is what leads to two of the prisoners escaping.
The next thing which sets off alarms in the story was the fact that there were no alarms during the prison break-out. Wouldn’t Utopia have some sort of fail safes and alert systems when something goes wrong? But the X-Men must not need the alarms because they already knew about the escape effort, and this is when things got really crazy.
I was taken aback when Luke charged at Colossus, but not surprised because it was a heroic act. However, I was even more surprised to see that Luke could actually tackle the mutant powerhouse. Colossus is now gifted with the powers of the Phoenix and the Juggernaut; Luke Cage shouldn’t have stood a chance. At that point, I was officially skeptical of the blatant Avengers bias. Next, Hawkeye and Spider-Woman easily dispatched Cyclops and Emma Frost. Something was definitely not right. The escape was way too easy.
I was ready to give this story a scathing grade for the complete lack of respect Bendis gave the Phoenix Five, but then he twisted it. I love that the escape attempt was all just a cruel punishment devised by Danger, forced to relive the same dream of escape without remembering their previous attempts. I’m upset with myself for not realizing the twist sooner, but thanks to my Phoebe-like naiveté, the twist made it one of the best New Avengers stories I’ve read.
A great one-shot story which embellishes the AvX event, but doesn’t add anything relevant to the overall story. Bendis is wrapping up his Avengers run this fall, and this is one of his best stories. Too bad he used it to poorly highlight the romantic relationship between Hawkeye and Spider Woman.